Since making his debut in 2011 with Bowser, L.A.’s Jonwayne has made huge strides in his hometown’s rich hip-hop scene and beyond. He inked a deal with Stones Throw last year, fed his hungry fans a series of free projects, and recently started a super-group of rapper-producers, Digital Diamonds, with Scoop DeVille and former Cool Kid Chuck Inglish. Before Jon makes his proper rapper debut later this year, here’s a quick 5-point starter guide to his finest beats.
1. Jonwayne, “Alice In Wonderland”
Alice In Wonderland is a mindf*ck in its own right, but the trippy narrative becomes that much more psychedelic in the hands of Jonwayne. As part of his F*cks Disney EP, he sampled the animated film and somehow made a monolithic banger from chopped-up vocals and stuttering drums. We’ve since learned that Jonwayne doesn’t want to do another of these projects, though we must ask: “Why?!”
2. Jonwayne, “Crumbled Luna”
Given its celestial name, you’d expect “Crumbled Luna” to sound space-y or futuristic, which it most certainly does. But it also displays that forward-thinking producers like Jonwayne were incorporating the whole skittering hi-hat thing into their sound before everyone and their mom download “trap drum kits.” This one’s also the clear standout off his 2011 debut, Bowser.
3. Homeboy Sandman, “Rain”
Quick-witted Queens MC Homeboy Sandman deserves just as much credit as Jonwayne for the success of “Rain.” Few other rappers could complement the unrelenting waves of caffeinated synthesizers like Sandman, who is capable of rapping over pretty much anything you throw at him. Hopefully more collaborations are in the works.
4. Jonwayne, “King”
Off the Death of Andrew EP, “King” best encapsulates Jonwayne at his most experimental and confident. A majority of the instrumental builds steadily amid dark piano strokes, thick kicks, and shakers before all mayhem breaks loose. Once everything hits, it hits hard with layers of scratching vinyl, wheezing synthesizers, and even Rick Ross proclaiming his place on the throne.
5. Jonwayne, “Night School” featuring Azizi Gibson, Quelle, Jeremiah Jae & Scoop Deville
While his other tracks suggest otherwise, Jonwayne isn’t all about combining slapping drums, fuzzy synthesizers, and subtle key touches. He can also do the traditional, sample-based boom-bap thing, which drives posse cut “Night School.” You might be distracted by all the rhymes—rightfully so—but take a second to digest the low-key rolling snares, choir-esque vocals, and steady piano. Don’t sleep on his verse, either.